The PM made the shocking jibe moments after Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed Esther Ghey to Parliament, who was due to watch Prime Minister’s Questions from the public gallery
Rishi Sunak has refused to apologise after he made a jibe at Keir Starmer over his stance on “defining a woman” while the mother of murdered transgender teenager Brianna Ghey was in Parliament.
The shocking exchange came just moments after the Labour leader welcomed Esther Ghey, who was due to appear from the public gallery at Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Starmer praised her “unwavering bravery” just days after two teenagers were jailed for the murder of 16-year-old Brianna last year.
“As a father, I can’t even imagine the pain that she is going through and I am glad that she is with us in the gallery here today,” he added. But as Mr Sunak launched into his attack lines at PMQs, he accused Mr Starmer of failing to stand by his commitments and U-turning on “defining a woman”.
Mr Starmer replied: “Of all the weeks to say that when Brianna’s mother is in this chamber – shame. Parading as a man of integrity when he’s got absolutely no responsibility.” Other MPs also shouted “shame” while one could be heard saying: “Disgusting”.
Labour MP Liz Twist later asked the PM whether he “could consider apologising” to Brianna’s mother for his “insensitive comment” – but Mr Sunak swerved the question. No10 also refused to apologise on six ocassions when later asked by reporters. His press secretary insisted it was “legitimate” to point out Mr Starmer’s “U-turns”.
She said: “I think if you look back at what the PM was saying, there was a long list of U-turns the leader of the opposition had been making. I don’t think those u-turns are a joke. I think it was quite serious changes in public policy. I think it’s totally legitimate to point those out.”
Instead as he concluded PMQs, Mr Sunak said: “If I could just say also to Brianna Ghey’s mother who is here, as I said earlier this week, what happened was an unspeakable and shocking tragedy. As I said earlier this week, in the face of that, for her mother to demonstrate the compassion and empathy that she did last weekend, I thought demonstrated the very best of humanity in the face of seeing the very worst of humanity. She deserves all our admiration and praise for that.”
Mr Starmer later met with Esther in his parliamentary office. A spokesman for the Labour leader said: “We don’t think the country wants or deserves a Prime Minister who is happy to use minorities as a punch bag. His comments were deeply offensive to trans people and he should reflect on his response and apologise.”
The Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP added: “Every day, Sunak just sinks lower and lower. His behaviour is appalling and deeply disturbing, but it’s hard to be shocked by this lack of empathy from a man who bets on asylum seekers’ lives. People are not a punchline – and it’s long overdue that the Prime Minister learns that. The British public, and Brianna’s mother, deserve so much more than this.”
Posting on social media, Labour MP Kate Osborne also said: “For the Prime Minister to make a what is a woman quip at #PMQs when Brianna’s mum Esther Ghey is in the Gallery is an absolute disgrace.” She said Mr Starmer was “absolutely right to call him out and shout shame”. A second Labour MP Nadia Whittome added: “Absolutely sickening for Rishi Sunak to make a transphobic joke at PMQs while Brianna Ghey’s mother is watching in the chamber. That’s all trans people are to him: an opportunity for cheap point-scoring. There are no words. What a disgrace.”
Former Countdown host and LBC presenter Carol Vorderman also called on Mr Sunak to resign over the comments. She told The Mirror: “Rishi Sunak should immediately resign for his sick joke mocking trans people when he knew that Brianna Ghey’s mother was in the Houses of Parliament. The fact that the Tory benches sat laughing like a pack of hyenas tells you everything you need to know about this party.”
Stonewall’s spokesperson said: “For the Prime Minister to use trans people as a punchline, in front of the grieving mother of a murdered trans child, was cheap, callous and crass. The disrespect and dehumanisation of trans people that we see played out daily in the media and in our political discourse has real life consequences and it has to stop. We call on the Prime Minister to apologise unreservedly for his comments, and for him to reflect on how careless words from those in power can and do result in harm.”